USA Today removes 23 articles, says reporter fabricated sources

USA Today removed 23 news stories from its website Thursday after an internal audit concluded that the reporter who wrote them misattributed quotes and in some cases may have fabricated interviews and sources.

The breaking news reporter, Gabriel Miranda, has resigned from the newspaper and could not be reached for comment.

USA Today has removed nearly two dozen stories she wrote between spring 2021 (“TikTok bans ‘milk crate challenge’ from its app, citing concerns over dangerous acts”) and spring of this year (“‘This is my land, I stay’: These Ukrainian women are among thousands choosing to fight, not flee”).

USA Today released a list of the removed articles as well as a brief account of its investigation into Miranda, which the company said began with an “external correction request” several weeks ago. The audit eventually broadened to encompass a wide swath of her reporting, which focused on trending topics and viral stories.

In 2020, USA Today had announced that it was enhancing its “fact-checking” network and partnering with Facebook. “As a media organization with unparalleled local-to-national reach, we take our commitment to providing people with truthful information very seriously, and fact-checking is integral to the journalism being done by USA TODAY and in Gannett newsrooms across the country” Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Gannett’s news leader and Publisher of USA TODAY had said.

“We also recognize that the distribution of false information on social media is a concerning issue that warrants attention in today’s world, so joining Facebook’s fact-checking program to identify misinformation felt like a natural step for us. We are proud to partner with Facebook on a program with such an important mission.”

Now, USA Today, a ‘fact-checker’ with Facebook, has failed to ‘fact-check’ its own stories. A list of the pieces that were removed was released by USA Today, along with a narrative of the investigation into Miranda, which began with an “external correction request” a few weeks ago. Later, the audit was broadened to include a wide spectrum of her work, with a focus on trending topics and popular stories.

According to a brief bio on The Red and Black website, “Gabriel Miranda worked as a reporter and campus news editor for The Red & Black from 2019-2021. Before graduating in May 2021, reported on race, protests, health, and campus news.”

During college, she received a Google News fellowship and partnered with a bilingual outlet in California, Miranda said during the panel. She also said she did an internship at Fox 5 (WAGA-TV) and freelanced at The Gainesville Times.

Her last story with USA Today was April 17.

Miranda’s LinkedIn page was recently deleted.

Other reporters at major papers have lost their jobs over similar infractions including The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke in 1981, who made up a story about an eight-year-old heroin addict; The New York Times’ Jayson Blair in 2003, who made up stories and plagiarized others; and the USA Today reporter Jack Kelley in 2004. 

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